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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ALS sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrigs Disease is a progressive fatal neuromuscular disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord Motor neurons among the largest of all nerve cells reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body with connections to the brain When they die the ability of the brain to start and control muscle movement dies with them With all voluntary muscle action affected ALS patients in the later stages are totally paralyzed through it all however their minds remain unaffected Amyotrophic comes from the Greek language A means no or negative Myo refers to muscle and Trophic means nourishment--No muscle nourishment When a muscle has no nourishment it Atrophies or wastes away Lateral identifies the areas in a persons spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that nourish the muscles are located As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening Sclerosis in the region Over 5000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS each year There is great variation in the course of the disease Symptoms usually appear in individuals between the ages of 40-70 though the disease has been reported in both younger and older persons Survival after the confirming diagnosis is on average two to five years Progression of ALS varies with each individual therefore some will live longer--up to 10 years and about five percent will exceed 12 years In some cases the disease seems to plateau Many patients are able to live productive and satisfying lives especially with the use of assistive devices for daily living and later in the disease augmentative communication equipment Men and women are affected in almost equal numbers Also up to 10 percent of ALS cases are familial occurring more than once in a family lineage but 90 percent of ALS cases show no hereditary pattern Approximately one-third of patients become
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